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Light rail transit funding study running late

Dec 02 2011

The timeline for determining how much Greater Victoria residents could pay for a light rail transit line has been delayed by two months.

Members of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission approved its half of a $100,000 study that identifies local funding options for LRT, but they suggested not spending any money until a new commission is appointed by the province.

The Nov. 19 municipal election results left the commission with just three of its seven members because of mayors and councillors not returning to office.

The latest delay postpones the completion of a local funding report until May instead of March, which will put pressure on the commission and B.C. Transit representatives who want to negotiate an overall funding scheme with senior levels of government within the next year.

"The original intent was to negotiate in the fall of 2012, so it puts pressure on the schedule to make sure we're ready to do that in the fall," said B.C. Transit's director of corporate and strategic planning, Erinn Pinkerton, who is also a member of the task force for local funding options.

Identifying local funding options will complete the $3.1-million first phase of the LRT proposal. The second phase will cost about

$5 million for a detailed business case, which will include an independent review. Phase three will be construction.

Local funding options for similar transit projects typically require one-third funding with equal contributions from senior levels of government, but those details will be considered during negotiations, said Pinkerton.

A long list of options include a regional sales tax, a carbon tax, a parking levy or a fuel tax. But collecting money through parking would limit payments to just the communities with pay parking, said outgoing transit commission chairman Christopher Causton, who is one of the four members leaving.

"Not every community has the same levers," he said. "Who has parking other than downtown Victoria and University of Victoria? If we added 10 cents to parking, only people parking in those areas would be paying."

Fuel taxes are a common way to pay for such transit options. Victoria's regional transit system collects 3.5 cents on every litre of fuel, which equates to 11.5 per cent of the transit budget. Metro Vancouver collects 15 cents for every litre, according to a report published in September for the Victoria Rapid Transit Project.

The new transit commission needs to set its priorities and identify where the LRT fits into that agenda, said Causton. New appointments are expected in the coming weeks.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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